What to do when feedback hurts

Reading time: 4 minutes

Posted by Vincent Maria Klein on August 10th at 12:52pm

Because I lived in the countryside I couldn´t wait to get my drivers license. 13 month prior to my 18th birthday I started learning. For the theory test I prepared well. As I would say: very well.

Then the big day came. My grandma was visiting and had bought a bottle of wine. She wanted to celebrate with me afterwards.

I gave my best, handed my sheets in and left the room.

Being called in as almost the last person, the man told me: „18 points of mistakes, Mr. Klein. I´m sorry!“

I had failed. Ooops! That hurt.

This moment is inevitable. It occurs again and again. In small and big settings. The moment we hear something we don´t want to hear. The stuff that makes us uncomfortable. The stuff that hurts and saddens us.

  • As I heard from the meeting in which they decided that I wasn´t qualified enough to visit this special school.

  • As my first youth leader told me that I should quote at least one scripture in my message.

  • As I was confronted concerning my arrogance and disrespect at the beginning of my pastoral training.

Whatever your memories may look like. Whatever your experiences have been or are at the moment. In every single situation it is up to you to make this decision:

To become bitter or better?

My experience as well as my conviction is this: Every one of these situations got the potential to make us better and stronger. Or to prey on our mind and to destroy us a bit.

King David was someone who got a ticking-off during the time of the Bibel.

He was addressed by the prophet Nathan concerning committing adultery and murder. In addition to that, this happened in a public setting (2. Samuel 12:1-11).

He had obviously messed things up. That dawned on him in just that moment.

Actually King David had sex with Uriah´s wife when he was still at the battlefield for him. As she got pregnant from him, he commanded that her husband should be killed.

These are the horrifying facts. However, David´s response to this conversation is even more exciting ...

Psalm 51: Five decisions to make when feedback hurts

1. Being receptive. Amongst the most important soft skills in the corporate world you find teachability and the willingness to learn. Why should they be less important in our spiritual life?

Are we open to receive correction? - Or are the doors closed?

We read in the first two verses of Psalm 51 that Nathan came to David. He wasn´t stopped by guards. He had access.

Does God have access to my heart?

Our intern is staying with us at he moment. We gave him the keys to our flat. - He´s able to come and go whenever he wants. Which he does.

Does God have access to the areas of your life? Or does he need an appointment? It´s quite likely that Nathan, who was a respected prophet, had easy access to the palace.

David welcomed him and reacted to his message. That speaks in his favor.

2. Contemplating about what´s being said. An important lesson about feedback: It´s ON ME to decide whether to take it or to reject it. It´s possible to listen, to say "Thank you“ and then to think about the message.

God speaks in different ways into our lives. Often times he uses other people. They´re not always right. That´s the reason why you should contemplate about it.

How can this look like?

  • Sleep on it. (You don´t have to make a decision the same day.)

  • Pray about it. („God, if this is you, please confirm.“)

  • Talk about it. (With one or two people who you trust.)

Do we let correction resound in us? - Or do we block it right away?

David reacted immediately. He got the parable and acknowledged his fault (Psalm 51:1-4).

3. Keeping my self-worth. You feel like king and are convicted as a sinner. - That hurts. How often does this happen in our lives … We feel self-confident and good. Just to turn into someone who feels small and intimidated the next moment.

Even more when we didn´t saw ourselves what we´ve been told.

American football players call it „blind side“, doctors and psychologists „blind spot“ and drivers „blind angle“: The zone you can´t see yourself.

David was able to repent without condemning himself (Psalm 51:7). He owned up to his sin, did regret it and still saw himsel through God´s eyes. As someone who hadn´t lost his worthiness.

Even when we sin we don´t loose our dignity before God. He made us kings and priests (revelation 5:9-10). He isn´t deviating from that.

4. Regaining my joy. It took me weeks, even months to „recover“ from some feedbacks. The big challenge is to not throw in the towel inwardly. If we don´t get back our joy, we loose our power (Nehemiah 8:10).

Maybe we´re not able to do this in our own strength. - How great that we´re allowed to ask God for help. That´s one more thing that David did (Psalm 51:8 & 12).

5. Holding up my praise Just as my smile can die and my laughter can cease, so can my mouth remain shut. It can become hard, even impossible to praise God.

Still this is something we´re allowed to talk about with our heavenly father. David´s request was „Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you.“ (Psalm 51:15).

„Pray the hardest when it is hardest to pray.“ TobyMac

Another good prayer for such a situation can be Psalm 34. Check out this version, which is sung.

What are your feedback experiences? How do you react if you are told something you don´t like to hear? Please write a comment.

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